People often ask me how I can see more than one Clay Aiken concert per tour (especially when I go to two nights in a row). I tell them that no two concerts are the same because of the interaction with the audience. Clay's ability to ad lib and react to whatever is happening on/off stage or in the audience is sight to behold. Sometimes he goes right into the audience to chat and then he really turns it up a notch. He responds to his surroundings and his audience responds back. It's personal, even when you are sharing it with as ten thousand people. And he's out there, flying without a net.
I've enjoyed many entertainers and musicians over the years but few seem to have the ability (and the nerve) to step away from the script night after night and respond to the human emotions in front of them. It's what separates the good from the great. It's why Ellen isn't afraid to go out in her audience. It's why Jay Leno will never be Johnny Carson.
I remember as a little kid staying up late on a Saturday night to watch the Carol Burnett show. My favorite part was when she would say "Let's bump up the lights" and she did a Q&A session with the audience. There is actually a video made of just these moments at a site called www.hidefdvd.com. Here there was no script, probably little editing and it changed every time.
Clay always builds in at least one if not two places in his concerts where he can interact with the audience. The best was from the 2005 Jukebox Tour where the reluctant husbands or boyfriends of Clay fans were picked on. He would look for participation from a guy who was "bound, gagged, bribed or threatened" to come to the Clay Aiken concert. He would go right in the audience and tease them about it. Here is one of my favorites.
In his latest blog, Clay talked about the new contest his fan club is running where members have to guess the four letter acronym that can be made from his new album title (We are hoping for the album in September.) He wanted to see what we were sending in for the contest so he wrote in his blog "Respond to me".
We do and it's hard to explain why. It's more than the voice, the song interpretation, the self deprecating humor, the teasing, the snarky wit, the quick on his feet comedic timing. It's more than the selfless philanthropy, the activism, the caring for fellow human beings. It's almost chemical.
"Respond to me." He almost commanded it.
"Always", I reply. Now can I just have a hint so that I can win this contest?